By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Spring is in the air and even though restrictions are lifting, we must still remember that so is the coronavirus. With proof-of-vaccination out the window as of Friday Apr. 8, a door opens for all seniors 70 and over, long-term care residents and all First Nations 55 plus to get a little extra boost. B.C. announced on Tuesday, April 5 that these more susceptible groups would have the opportunity to get that fourth shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in the arm later this month.

It’s been six-months since these higher-risk groups had their first booster shot, and the protection it once offered against the virus and variant Omicron could very well be diminishing. “This is a really important measure for us,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry in her announcement on Apr. 5. “We know that the older we are, the sooner the [COVID-19] antibodies will wane. An extra booster dose right now will provide a rapid increase in antibodies and will provide that spring protection as we get back to normal activities in the community.”

According to Henry the result of testing shows that those who are younger have a high rate of antibodies in their system both from the vaccinations they received and/or having contracted COVID-19, while those who are 70 and over have much lower levels.

The province released data that accumulated from the beginning of Jan. until Mar. that show the largest share of people that are hospitalized, in critical care, or have died due to COVID-19 are still those that continue to go unvaccinated. The proof is in the pudding that being up to date on all vaccinations remains the best protection against the virus and its variants.

As of Apr. 4, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) are aware that across Canada there are 96,577 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on First Nation reserves, 8,588 of those in British Columbia. During the week of Mar. 24 to 30 the daily reported active case counts increased by 11.6 percent from the week before. Studies with ISC show that the COVID-19 case fatality rate of those living on reserves make up 67 per cent of the total case fatality rate in the Canadian general population. 97 per cent of First Nation people that have contracted COVID-19 and live on a reserve have recovered.

The Shuswap Health Band office is still awaiting official confirmation of the recent announcement from Interior Health. Danielle Armstrong, Health Director of the Shuswap Band states they will absolutely offer it when it becomes available. “We will be offering it to those who qualify, and will be running a clinic of our own,” says Shuswap Health Director Armstrong. “We’ll also be working with local pharmacies to support our membership, and those that want the immunization. Last time we worked with Pharmasave to get the third booster out before Christmas, for those that wanted it, and it worked really well.”

The virus isn’t the only thing in the air, there is a lot of excitement since the last of the official restrictions was lifted on April 8, which means no more fumbling for vaccine cards for a night out. For the first time in two years, a social summer is on the horizon. In all the excitement we still must remain patient and courteous that not all will be ready to move at the same pace. Just as some people will still have the choice to mask up, some smaller businesses, and venues may still opt to enforce the vaccine cards a little longer. For those that fit in the above-mentioned groups, appointments for that little extra protection can be booked soon. Fourth doses for the regular public are not being recommended at this time.

“We’re just waiting to hear when the immunizations will be out,” says Shuswap Health Director Armstrong. “We’ll go from there, and follow the recommendations, and guidelines.”